Different Types of Contracts:
There are three types of contracts for teachers: probationary, term, and continuing. Each is different in regard to the type of rights they offer. Therefore, we will discuss each separately.
In most cases, teachers on a probationary contract have few rights of appeal and a slim chance of receiving a hearing before the Board of Trustees, the Commissioner of Education, or even a court of law.
In Texas, probationary means just that, and the teacher on a probationary contract is not entitled to a hearing before a school board or a hearing officer appointed by the Commissioner if the teacher is terminated at the end of the contract. However, one right that probationary teachers do have is the right to be automatically renewed if the Board misses its timeline (10 days before the last day of instruction). If the Board of Trustees fails to give notice of its intention to terminate the teacher’s contract within the time required by law, the board MUST employ the teacher for the next school year. If they miss the date, then contracts are automatically renewed. The only way they can be broken after that is for good cause. Reduction in force is a good cause, but the teacher, even one on a new one-year probationary contact is entitled to a hearing at that point because the contract, is now being terminated in the middle of the contract.
Probationary teachers also have the right to file a grievance regarding a non-renewal. A grievance is not a “due process” hearing. It is only an opportunity for you to say what you are going to say. The Board can decide for you or against you, or take no action at all. Unfortunately, in almost every case, the decision of the Board of Trustees is final and cannot be appealed to either the Commissioner of Education or the courts.
Even if you are on a probationary contract and are informed that your contract is going to be non-renewed, you should call your association or attorney. There still might be an opportunity for you to submit a resignation, which you would want to become effective the last day of your contract or prior to the beginning of the next school year. This may also keep a termination from becoming part of your record.
Teachers on term contracts have a right to “due process.” It does not matter if the contract is for one year or more. Due process rights include not only proper notice that the contract will not be renewed, but a hearing before the Board of Trustees, the right to hear evidence against you, the right to cross-examine witnesses supporting the district’s case, the right to present your own witnesses, and the right to be represented by counsel or a representative.
Unlike teachers on probationary contracts, teachers on term contracts have the right to appeal to the Commissioner the decision reached by the Board of Trustees. In addition, the case against you has to be based on evidence showing that you have violated the terms of your contract or on reasons listed in board policy. Unlike for those on probationary contracts, the district must show that they have “cause” to non-renew or terminate the employment of teachers on term contracts.
The rights under Continuing Contracts are much the same as they are under a term, contact except that the hearing is held before a hearing officer appointed by the Commissioner of Education.
Time is extremely important in these cases. By law, the teacher has only 10 days to appeal a continuing contract termination and 15 days for a term contract. Best advice: As soon as you receive information that your contract is in danger, call your association.
Section 21.103 of the Texas Education Code:The Board of Trustees of a school district may terminate the employment of a teacher employed under a probationary contract at the end of the contract period if in the board’s judgment the best interests of the district will be served by terminating the employment. The Board of Trustees must give notice of its decision to terminate the employment to the teacher not later than the 10th day before the last day of instruction required under the contract. The notice must be delivered personally by hand delivery to the teacher on the campus at which the teacher is employed, except that if the teacher is not present on the campus on the date that hand delivery is attempted, the notice must be mailed by prepaid certified mail or delivered by express delivery service to the teacher’s address of record with the district. Notice that is postmarked on or before the 10th day before the last day of instruction is considered timely given under this subsection. The board’s decision is final and may not be appealed.
Regardless of how long you have taught, there is one very important thing to remember: If you receive notice that your contract is going to be non-renewed or terminated, stay calm and do not sign anything without first contacting your association or attorney.